Me — Time Budgeting

Lately I’ve been having a really hard time with… well, time. There’s been so much that I need to get done at work and at home, and I feel as though the amount of time I have to do it is getting smaller and smaller while the list of things is getting bigger. Part of the problem is that since I don’t have time to do weekly stuff, it keeps piling up, and another part of the problem is that I’m the only person filling in my position at work as of today. And not only that, the person that left was full time, and because of my school semester I still work part time. So what 1.5 full time employees were already struggling to carry is now being handled by 0.5 employees, which is me.

I do not know how I managed to wake up consistently at 5am last semester and get work done then. That was a magical time—a time I desperately need to emulate and am failing miserably at by struggling to get up at 7 every morning. (Which, back then, was my ‘sleep in’ day.)

What I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to get real work done at my desk. I mean, why would I do anything when video games are right there and there’s no consequence to doing that instead of writing? (Beyond the mental consequence, that is.) That said, today I went straight to Starbucks after work, even though I was super tired from a long day, and pulled out my laptop to write. I will say, though I only stayed 2 hours and didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d have liked, I did get stuff done, so for that I am happy. I’ll try to do this more in the future.

I also think that since I have such a big backlog of work that needs to be done, there’s always a psychological strain on getting work done, so stress is a constant in my life right now. I imagine it would be a lot easier to get stuff done if I wasn’t so intimidated by the sheer amount of things that need to be done.

The thing that probably frustrates me most about situations like this is that while I know the answer is simple, it isn’t very clear. Do I need to schedule a day where I just kick down the whole to-do list? Would I even use that day properly or would I waste it and feel terrible as a result? Do I go to bed at 9pm and set up alarms that force me to get out of bed in the hopes that I can resume my once-great schedule? Do I just need to permanently trim my to-do list and forgive myself for doing so? Would the lessened burden fix things?

Part of me is thinking “just hold out for the summer, you’ll have more free time!” but I know that isn’t true. In fact, I’ll probably have less, because I’ll be working full time once school is out of the way, and I’ve half-committed to finishing the full-length play I started a few months ago, so the side projects I’m doing now will end up being even lower of a priority if I can’t find a way to up my creativity regarding personal projects.

Here’s hoping that regularly going to Starbucks will be worth my time (and the money my self-imposed patronage would cost).

Anyway’s that’s it for today’s useless ramble. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Life — Learning From the Fire

This sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen often. A lot of people I know are talking about how tragic the fire is and how life shouldn’t be this way, but I think it’s worth looking at things in its opposite.

It’s much easier to remember history by its tragedies rather than the miracles (you can point to my own blog as an example of this: I never once mentioned Katie Bouman’s team that created the black hole picture!), but by the look of things, the world used to be much worse. Sure, the world could stand to be a lot better, but let’s look at things in a positive light today. 100 years ago we were just getting out of one of the worst wars humanity had ever known, and was just a few steps away from entering one that would rival it.

Not too long ago, monuments and landmarks were being destroyed left and right, not to mention the millions of lives that were suddenly lost.

When a single building being on fire is international news, as important as that building may be, we have reason to be thankful for the relative peacefulness our modern day has provided us.

Beyond this, death (as the case may be), is a natural part of life. All things must end, and if the Notre Dame Cathedral is left in a state where it can’t be restored (which would honestly surprise me), then that doesn’t diminish the fact that there is still an endless supply of art, history, and culture in Paris alone.

People have short memories, and I think it’s in events like this that remind us of the pieces of culture that we still have, right next door. You never know if it’s going to be there tomorrow, because something as crazy could happen there, too.

Is it tragic? Yes, of course. But as far as I know nobody was injured, and with today’s technology the building could probably be rebuilt better than it was yesterday in less than a decade.

It astounds me a bit that some people seem to view events like this exactly the same way as terrorist attacks. You see the same things being spouted off: “Our hearts are breaking today in light of recent events that took place this morning/afternoon/evening. Tragedies like this…” and so on. I think treating the destruction of a monument the same way as the deaths of hundreds of people in the same way is incredibly insulting, frankly. And yet, which will history remember more clearly? Hard to say, though it does seem that this sort of freak accident is far more rare than terrorist attacks, unfortunately.

I think days like today are best used reflecting on the past, looking forward to the future, and pressing onward to right wrongs (intentional or not) without taking more time than we need to mourn over what was lost.

One thing I feel modern society has gotten really bad at is learning from mistakes and correcting them. Let the cathedral’s fire (and the subsequent blow against European past and culture) be your excuse to go to your local museums or exhibits. Go explore culture you otherwise would not have! Life goes on.

Me — Am I a Writer?

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Admittedly, not that long, compared to most people, but that’s… oh gosh, that’s almost half my life at this point. Point is I’ve always loved medieval fantasy and the games and stories that surround that genre. From high school onward I was uncommon in the fact that I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

A lot of people go through college and change majors and just struggle with their own identity until they’re in their late 20’s and suddenly discover who they are. I feel like I’m sort of the opposite in that I used to have such a solid idea of who I was until very recently.

I haven’t gotten excited about any new story in months. Actually, the first revamped Lisa Stenton short was the last thing I could hype myself up for before I wrote, and that was January. Everything after that was written because I required it of myself, and I don’t know if you can feel that while you read it, but I can remember feeling it in my heart just by reading the title to those stories.

It’s not that I’m having a panic attack, or any dramatic crisis or anything, just that I’ve… lost interest. I’m working full time, and when I get home I don’t want to write of all things, I just want to relax and play video games with my brothers/friends.

One thing I’ve noticed about this is that it can be very difficult to judge the line between discipline and overworking oneself. I think that for me, that line was crossed these past few months as soon as writing became a chore. It seems ridiculous to write stories and expect people to enjoy them when I forced myself to create them in the first place. And yet, I’m hyperproductive, so requiring one flash fiction piece a week doesn’t seem too bad, and hey, even if I’m forcing myself to write them, nobody’s forcing you to read them. I just don’t like the idea of twiddling my thumbs for months having nothing to show for the passage of time.

I’ve been told I need to branch out more, like take up drawing or pottery or something. I still don’t know how to feel about that, but honestly that doesn’t sit well with me. Even if I could, theoretically, pursue my passion of medieval fantasy through writing, I know that drawing isn’t the way my life is going to go.

I can take solace in the fact that I’m content in my current emotional state. I want to move out of SoCal, and I still have other personal troubles, but things are fine. I think I’m mostly satisfied in the fact that I’m always busy with school, work, and other commitments, so any time to myself I do have playing video games is earned, not wasted.

If I were to make a prediction as to what the near future of my life looks like, I would say that I’ll somehow find that spark of writing again, whether it be months from now or years. Hopefully I won’t live here anymore, but I hope to have a steady job (like the one I have now) and am enjoying writing on the side in an apartment or something in Oregon or Washington.

The future. Hindsight. You know, whatever. The questions I’m struggling with are basically just problems for future me, so it’s not a big deal.

Me — Family Dynamic

My family, like everyone else’s, is unique. I’m the youngest of six, and I’m very lucky in that, for the most part, we’ve all always gotten along. (Childhood was a different story, but once I was around 10, arguments over silly things like who gets the computer and whatnot stopped happening.) Basically, fights were very rarely ever constructed on a personal level. Especially today, things we argue about are both lighthearted and either opinion based or circumstantial (such as how X was “back then”). I would consider my brothers some of my best friends simply because they’re the people I spend the majority of my free time with, if I’m spending it with anybody. We’re a gaming team, and one day we may actually end up producing games as well as playing them. Who knows.

So generally speaking my family is pretty close. But I think that came with a cost, because we’re all very private people, and we keep to ourselves much more than other people, at least for each other. I don’t mean to imply that getting along and keeping personal stuff private are two mutually exclusive things, or that they are inversely related, but it does seem to be the case with my family in particular, and I do think there is some sort of correlation. We’re just not open with each other.

I think this is pretty much why when I make strong friendships (which happens rarely), I’m very open and very personal within a month. I like to get to the “where do you want to live when you grow up and why”s, the “what sort of traits do you look for in a long term partner”s, and the “what would you want to change about your childhoods” as fast as possible. Part of that is probably because I want to share my own answers to those questions, but the concept of having a conversation like that with my siblings is… actually very weird to me. Plus, I use those deep questions as a means of getting to know the other person, so I wouldn’t really need to know the answer to those questions with my family, because I know them at a more subconscious level.

For perspective, I’ve written things on this blog I have never told my family. It’s not that I want to keep it from them—posting sensitive information on the internet would be an interesting method of keeping a secret, after all—just that having any level of personal conversation with my family would by its very nature be forced and inorganic.

I’ve written before about in high school I fell in love with a girl that never had any feelings towards me, and we were good friends for five years. I’m sure you can imagine how many situations and stories that circumstance would foster. But I don’t have any idea how much my siblings know about it, or even my parents, because the only time I would ever share anything would be on a need-to-know basis in regards to venting and my own personal sanity, which over the course of those five years probably only happened two or three times. And I’m the vocal one.

I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing. For me personally, I think I handle myself relatively well, so I rarely need somebody to talk to. But it does leave this gap in what should really be basic knowledge. It’s as though I’ve been practicing fetching water from a well a mile away when there’s one a hundred feet away. I’ve been doing it the long way for so long that the knowledge of the closer well doesn’t even bother me.

Note: That analogy is awful because it implies that I’m being illogical and inefficient, which is very much not me. However, I will do the efficient thing in this circumstance and not waste time thinking of a better one. So there.

 

Me — Writing Paradox

One strange thing about being a writer, and I know I’m definitely not alone in this, is that I have never found writing easy. I honestly don’t like writing. I like having written, but that certainly isn’t the same thing. Rarely do I get any enjoyment from the act of writing, but I’ve learned that I get a lot of satisfaction from producing stuff, so all I really need is the discipline to force myself to write. Like this! Here I go: words words words.

As you may know, I monitor my mood twice a day and keep track of the things I was doing that may or may not have influenced that mood. I’ve been doing that since December, and along with a myriad of other things, I’ve learned that when I don’t write, I get tired. I found that astounding.

Let’s take an implausible hypothetical and say that I’m ahead on my writing. It’s Thursday, and everything I plan on publishing to the blog is already written and ready to go up until the next Thursday. I don’t have a full time job, and weekends are generally pretty open for me, so I could, without consequence, play video games for three days straight.

I’ve learned that if I do that, I get tired. I start to feel like I’m wasting my life and my time. It sucks, because I should feel great about the fact that I’ve written ahead of schedule, but no. If I don’t produce at least 500 words every other day, it actually starts to fatigue me. How strange is that? I don’t even like writing! That great sense of pride I get for doing a thing is so strong that I need to administer it constantly. Now that I think about it, I actually get withdrawals. It’s like an addiction. Weird.

It makes me think back to a few years ago before I had the blog, when I wasn’t forcing myself to write nearly every day. I certainly feel much better about myself now than I do then, but if I stopped writing altogether today, would I go back to the person I was? I think it’s easy to say no, because I’ve grown in more ways than just my writing, but that drive to keep writing is largely responsible for lots of the improvements in my life.

I don’t think I will ever enjoy writing. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t dishearten me a little. But I won’t let that stop me, either. I like having written too much. I can’t actually foresee a future where I’m no longer writing. I used to say my chances of becoming a professional author were 50-50. But even now, if I land a dream job becoming the lead writer for a video game company, and I’m handling the story construction rather than the actual writing, I don’t think that would actually stop me from writing my own personal stories. Nothing will.

It’s impossible to say what the future holds. But I’m relatively certain that whatever else I’m doing, I’ll always be making at least a little time to write.

 

Me — Visualizing Information About Yourself

I like lists and putting things into boxes. This mostly means Google Sheets. I used to keep track of everything I had ever written, for example. I had categories for each universe I wrote in and subcategories for each project. Every entry has the name, when it was first written, when it was last edited, how many words it was, how much it needed edits, whether or not I had had my writers group look at it, and whether or not I had recorded it. For each short story and novel I had written.

I haven’t updated that particular thing in months. It’s just a lot of maintenance because I’m constantly writing and editing. I even kept track of how many words had been published on my blog in posts like this. I had to do the math myself because that particular metric had to exclude fiction which would have been featured elsewhere anyway. I was careful not to duplicate.

I love graphs and visualizing data, but I’m not keen on doing things that don’t do me a whole lot of good. The only thing useful that Google Sheet told me was word count, so working so hard to keep it accurate wasn’t an efficient use of my time. But there are three things I use a ton because they’re very useful for my daily life. I have a “Hype Tracker”, an “Audio Tracker”, and a “Timeline”.

The Hype Tracker lists every game, movie, book, or event I’m looking forward to. Not only does it allow me to know what I’m looking forward to and how long it will take to happen, but I can also keep track of games that are out that I haven’t gotten yet (such as Pyre, for instance). I change the color of each entry for dates that have passed, and change it again if I still have yet to see that movie or read that book. It’s a nice way to see all the things I’m looking forward to (plus even just seeing the names of a bunch of things you love is a positive thing).

The Audio Tracker is the Sheet I have for all the podcasts I’m listening to. The data includes how many episodes I have left to catch up, what the last episode I listened to was (the single most important metric), how many hours I’ll need to invest to catch up, and how many weekly hours the podcast produces. For podcasts I’m caught up with, I just change the color and keep track of how many episodes are currently released. This particular Sheet requires a good amount of upkeep, but it’s useful for getting an estimate on how much time it will take to listen to all the things I like.

The Timeline is very simple. It’s just a graph of all the major events in my life. I have lines for age, the grade I was in, the house I live in, the major events, birthdays, larger writing projects, etc. This one I mostly keep so I can pull it up every time I want to know how old I was when “X” was happening, or what house I lived in when this game came out.

I also write a few notes in a journal on my phone twice a day about my mood and what I’ve been doing. I do this so I can learn about myself and my energy levels. Things I do and do not enjoy, etc. For example, I took a few hours to clean all the clutter off my desk and put things away today, and I realized I felt amazing. If I had just been about my day without consciously taking the time to analyze how I feel, I may not have learned how important a clean workspace is for me.

This all may sound like a lot of work, and in some ways it is. But I enjoy it, it teaches me about myself, and I don’t do things if they’re too exhausting. Learning about oneself is a job never done, so I like to take the time to do it.

Me — Why I Want to Be a Writer

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. And I don’t mean surface level stuff of “I want to be famous and published worldwide and pretty much the next J. K. Rowling”. First off, I really don’t want that. I don’t want to me “famous”. Ideally, I want to be known well enough that the average person may or may not have heard of my book series, but probably can’t think of my name off the top of their head, and especially doesn’t know what I look like.  Christopher Paolini is a good example. Most people know what Eragon is, but far fewer know the writer or anything about him. I want to be there, but maybe even a rung or too less successful. I want enough money to live comfortably, but I definitely am not aiming for the stars here.

But that’s not why I want to be a writer. Minor amounts of fame and comfortable lives can be achieved through hundreds of different professions. Hundreds of different creative-based professions, even. So why a writer?

Until recently, I’d have told you I want to tell stories about things that can’t happen in the real world. I don’t have an awe inspiring message I need to tell the masses, I just want to tell cool stories.

I think that’s part of it, but in the end that pretty much only explains why I write sci-fi/fantasy, not why I write as a whole.

I’m going to backtrack a minute, because I’m going to tell this story how it happened chronologically in my head. I had been wrestling with those ideas for a while, and at some point I came to something I considered a tangent. A footnote to this entire idea.

When I was in junior and senior year of high school, I was struggling with a lot of negative emotions. All day I would imagine a grim reaper following me around and getting revenge on people I didn’t like. I fantasized about this powerful being of death that could let me use my anger and frustration to get back at people. This was a person. A character. Her name was Cyntheras, and while she lived in my head, she was just visiting, because her true home was my first original universe, Nacre Then.

I would doodle tiny drawings of her (because if I work small it’s easier not to hate the art), in lots of classes, depicting her in powerful poses, and always with a giant scythe, which was her weapon of choice.

To me, she was just a neat idea for a character. I intended her to be an antagonist in one of the books in the Sorik series I never actually got further than a chapter or two in. She wasn’t mean, exactly, but she was a sadist, and she loved nothing more than to serve her dark god. Usually, that meant violence. And she was so good at it, that where she came from her name was synonymous with death.

Then, years after high school, I wrote a short story told in her perspective: “A Day of Reckoning“. It was the first time she had ever come to life outside of tiny drawings and short conversations with friends. I got to be ruthless. I got to revel in the power at my command. But most of all, I got to hurt people in my own harmless little way.

I liked the story. It came out well because of how dark it is. To this day it’s probably my most brutal piece. And in a way, it was my way of ending Cyntheras’ vacation in my head and returning her to where she belonged. I loved being evil, and now I don’t feel the need to think that way anymore.

It was in this thought that I realized. Once I wrote her story, she left my head. Left my thoughts. I realized that, at any given point in time, there’s almost always a person renting a space in my head. they invade my thoughts and my personality. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Other times, it’s not. Writing about them is just my way of evicting them.

My characters are different versions of me. Some are more me than others, but in writing their stories, I stop being me for a while. I get to explore possibilities and manifest things that are either not socially acceptable or not physically possible. I simply enjoy becoming different people for a while, which sort of explains why I find characters most like me harder to enjoy writing about.

This also explains why I like acting, and Dungeons & Dragons. I love just taking time to not be me. Cyntheras isn’t like me. She thrives on hurting people and lives only to serve her god. But I could fulfill myself in that through her, I could take action without fear of consequence. Maelys isn’t like me. He doesn’t take the time to question what’s happening around him, he just lets things happen unless he’s forced to react. But through him, I could explore, experience wonder, and adventure without having to worry about responsibilities. Lisa Stenton isn’t like me. She’s sassy and insecure and doesn’t even know what she should be doing with her life. But her stories allow me to have fun despite roadblocks and hardships.

None of my characters are me. But, in a way, they’re all me. I always jump at the opportunity to step out of my own shoes for a while, so with that in mind I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got into acting and broke out of my shell. I’m still introverted yes, but it doesn’t stop me from taking vacations from my own head.

That said, Cyntheras’ mind is a very different place. It can be fun for a while, but I don’t recommend staying there for long. For one, it’s crowded. I guess that sort of happens when you hear voices.

Also, I don’t want to be a writer. I am a writer. But I’m not a writer because of the prestige that the title may or may not get me. I’m just a writer because it’s the easiest way to write evictions for the many people that come and go from the very cramped space that is my head.